Patrick Mullins stood over the ball, adjusting it slightly just outside the 18-yard line. The Terrapins men’s soccer forward took a few steps back and then a few more to his right lining up to strike the ball with a left foot that had rarely failed him this year. He breathed and then ran at it in the 92nd minute of Saturday’s game.
Off his foot, it appeared true. But ball just skirted above the crossbar and outstretched fingertips of Clemson goalkeeper Cody Mizell onto the top of the net, and the score remained 0-0.
The No. 1 Terps would have more chances in the remaining 18 minutes, but they couldn’t connect. Their quest for the best start in the program’s illustrious history ended in a 2-2 draw with the Tigers (5-8-4, 2-2-4 ACC) in front of 3,684 at Ludwig Field, but the Terps (14-0-2, 6-0-1) did clinch the regular season ACC Championship.
It didn’t seem like it would come to that, though. The Terps scored in the first two minutes of each half to stake a 2-0 lead, a margin that had held for the Terps through their 14-0-1 start. First, Mullins tallied his 11th goal in the second minute off a feed from midfielder John Stertzer. Then, forward Schillo Tshuma bumped the margin to 2-0 in the 47th minute off connected passing from defender Mikey Ambrose and midfielder Sunny Jane.
But it wouldn’t hold, and a 6:27 minute span equalized the game. Clemson midfielder Alex Stockinger took a short cross from midfielder Paul Clowes that went past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Keith Cardona and netted it. In the 59th minute, forward Austin Savage rocketed a shot off the post, and defender Amadou Dia put it away.
It was an uncharacteristic performance for the Terps’ defense, as it was the first time they had surrendered a two-goal lead all season long. There wouldn’t be a new best start in program history, but there is coach Sasho Cirovski’s third ACC crown.